7 Birthday Party Ideas Your Teen Will Actually Like

Your big kid might not be into balloon animals and superheroes anymore, but birthdays are still a big deal for many teens. Take off some of the pressure with one of these party ideas for teens.

teenager in sequin dress holding giant purple 18 balloons against a pink background with white sprinkles
Photo: Sharon Cooper/Getty Images

Ah, how simple birthdays were when your kid was little. They were happy if you invited their favorite people, blew up a few balloons, and provided a cake. Sadly, though, those days may be gone (for now).

Now that your cute kid has turned into a teenager, they're most likely a little (OK, a lot) harder to impress. Add the fact that sharing their birthday party on Instagram is almost as important to many teens as the party itself and you've got a recipe for more pressure on the party-planning parents.

Desperate for some inspiration? Whether your kid is a foodie, an adrenaline junky, or a shopping enthusiast, these party ideas are proven to have your teen smiling instead of rolling their eyes.

Make a Splash With a Pool Party

If you're lucky enough to live someplace warm, fill the pool with oversized inflatables, create a fun mocktail, blast some music, and throw a pool party. Of course, guests need to remember their bathing suits and sunscreen, and you'll want to provide some shade and fresh towels.

Even if you don't have your own pool, your local community pools (indoors or out) often rent out their facilities for private parties.

Location: Your backyard or local pool

Ideal age: 13 and up

Things to remember: A responsible adult should supervise at all times, and everyone needs to know how to swim.

Estimated cost: Free; up to $200 to rent out a public pool

Number of guests: Try to keep a good ratio of adults to swimmers

Treat Them to a Shopping Party

A shopping party can be a low-cost and fun way to spend a birthday. You can even hire a personal shopper to help the birthday teen select a few new outfits—many stores offer this service for free or for a nominal fee.

Your teen's friends can give their expert advice, take snaps, and shop themselves. Then, throw in lunch or invite everyone back to the house for a fashion show later in the evening to complete the day.

Location: Your local mall

Ideal age: 14 and up

Things to remember: Give your teen a gift card upfront so they can purchase a few of their favorite outfits without you hanging around.

Estimated cost: It depends on your chosen stores, but probably $50 and up.

Number of guests: Stores won't want too many teens taking up space in the changing room, so stick to a small party of three or four.

Indulge Them With a Hotel Sleepover

Older teens will appreciate the plush surroundings and extra independence granted at a sleepover hosted in a hotel. Hotels also often have a swimming pool, perhaps a game room, and the opportunity to order a movie before they go to bed (if they go to bed at all!).

If possible, stay in an adjoining room to be close enough to help but far away from the giggles and noise.

Location: Any hotel

Ideal age: 16 and up

Things to remember: Tell the staff to put a hold on any room service to keep costs under control and carefully explain the rules to all attendees.

Estimated cost: $200-500 depending on the hotel

Number of guests: Most hotels have caps on the number of guests who can stay in a room, so keep the party small and intimate.

Throw a Paintball Party

Teens can run around and let off steam during a paintball battle. But, first, make sure you choose a company that doesn't mix up the teams so that you can be sure your kids will only play with their group. Then head to a family-friendly restaurant afterward to fuel back up with pizza or wings.

Location: A local paintball site

Ideal age: 14 and up (check individual age restrictions at your paintball site)

Things to remember: Tell kids to come wearing a few layers of clothes as paintball hits can hurt. You'll also want to ensure you have confirmed RSVPs, as you'll be expected to pay even if there are no-shows.

Estimated cost: Groups of eight or more often receive a discount, but expect to pay anywhere up to $300 for an afternoon of paintball fun for your teen and their friends.

Number of guests: 8

Organize an Insta Party

Give teens a party worth sharing by providing clothes, props, makeup, and hair styling products, and then let them hold their modeling shoot complete with a photo session.

Location: Home

Ideal age: 13 and up

Things to remember: Be sure to establish healthy boundaries and ground rules. The kids could even help come up with what they should be. For example, "only take pictures or post photos with consent, only post fully-clothed pictures, and agree to delete photos at the request of those in a photo."

Estimated cost: Low; just a few supplies, which you'll likely already have in your house, and some photo props from the dollar store.

Number of guests: 5–8

Host a Dinner Party

Play chef and server to your teen and their friends by letting them play at enjoying haute cuisine right at home. Ask guests to wear their fanciest clothes (we're talking ball gowns/prom style dresses, tuxedos, and lots of costume jewelry). Serve something fancy and offer champagne flutes of sparkling apple juice. Then top the night off with a movie-filled sleepover.

Location: Home

Ideal age: 13 and up

Things to remember: Check for dietary restrictions to ensure everyone can enjoy the feast. You may also want to serve traditional teen favorites like pizza and make it look fancy depending on the tastes of your teen's guests.

Estimated cost: $100-$200 depending on the ingredients.

Number of guests: 6–8

Survive a Fear Factor Party

A Fear Factor theme will make for a hilarious party that your teen and their friends will talk about for years! Inspired by the show that dares contestants to fight their fears through various trials, this party will have kids screaming in delight.

Set up a series of challenges and have kids progress through different levels until an overall winner is determined. Allow kids to opt out anytime to keep the challenge fun rather than scary. Trials can include:

  • Egg challenge: Prepare a bowl of hard-boiled eggs and one or two raw eggs and challenge kids to pick one and crack it on their foreheads. You can award points for bravery and choosing the right egg.
  • Worm rescue: Fill individual containers with chocolate pudding or jello and put candy worms at the bottom. Tie kids' hands behind their backs and time them to retrieve as many worms as possible in one minute. The person with the highest number of rescued worms is the winner!
  • Guess what's inside: Put a variety of objects into boxes with a hole cut in the side, then have kids put their hands in and try to guess what is inside. Choose things that feel horrible to touch, like cold spaghetti, hair, wet cotton balls, slime, egg whites, kiwi fruit, or mashed banana.

Location: Home

Ideal age: 13 and up

Things to remember: Check for any allergies ahead of time and keep a watchful eye to ensure all the kids are happy to play.

Estimated cost: $50 to $100 depending on the ingredients and decorations chosen

Number of guests: 6–8

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